Redemption for Plastic Toy Giraffe

This is Rupert. He is a plastic toy giraffe. Yes, he is that plastic toy giraffe.

5Lynnette rediscovered Rupert (whom I named literally just seconds ago) while going through belongs to sell at the swap meet. “Look who it is!” she shouted while I lay on the couch. I looked up to  see Rupert staring at me. Much guilt ensued.

For those of you firmly entrenched in the tl;dr group who did not and will not click on the link above, Rupert was Madison’s toy. Once during our first summer together, Madison gave herself a black eye by tugging on the PS3 controller cord. When the controller at the other end ran out of shelf, gravity guided it square into Mad’s face. I heard the crying from another room and saw the mark it would leave immediately. At the time, I could not cop to my own negligence. I would not bear the brunt of Lynnette’ swift anger and illogical sermons. I told that Madison held Rupert by the front legs, then shook it vigorously. At some point, I said, she whacked herself in the face with the giraffe’s head.

6I eventually told Lynnette the truth (as described in the link above), but I had never seen Rupert since those early days of fatherhood. It was an awkward reunion. Madison spoke accusingly of a situation she was involved in but could not remember; Lynnette tried to make me feel bad; and I felt a little bad. But, to make it up to Rupert, Lynnette has already bestowed upon him the highest honor an inanimate object can receive from out family: placement in the glass display case section of the entertainment unit. Rupert’s enshrinement means he can never again be used as a scapegoat for my carelessness and resulting injuries to my children. He will join -among other things – Rutherford Jameson’s trophy, all of Madison’s ceramic Christmas gifts to us, pieces of soap Madison refuses to let dissolve, my nano-block Farfetch’d, Disney pins, the twins’ first ultrasound, and something made out of pipecleaners that I can’t make out from my seat.

Rupert took one for the team and was banished to a box for 8 years. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Rupert. You’ve earned it.

First Time Vendors at the Swap Meet

A few years ago I was cleaning out my closet and drawers with the intention of throwing out the clothes that were worn or didn’t fit. Lynnette told me to save them. She wanted to sell them at a steep discount at the swap meet. I filled three trashbags with stuff, and stored them in the tub we didn’t use. They sat there for months. When Lynnette got pregnant with the twins, she finally told me that I could throw them away because she (finally) admitted she wasn’t really going to make a trip to sell those things at the swap meet.

1So when I cleaned out a few items from my closet and drawers earlier this year (because the twins’ possessions have spilled out into every inch of our home), I planned on tossing the items again. “I want to sell some things at the swap meet,” she said. “Can I please just throw this stuff away now instead of 8 months from now?” I asked. “No, for real this time,” she said. And then she began the process of cleaning out the clothes that no longer fit Cole, Avery, or Madison. More impressive, however, is the fact that she actually tried to get rid of some of her own clothing. Lynnette is a hoarder. She doesn’t like to admit it, but she is. These were my thoughts as I sat in the van at 5:30 this morning. In a two-stall space in the parking lot of Aloha Stadium. We were actually going to do it.

32This is Lynnette at her boutique. We sold some toys, books, adult clothing, and kids clothing. The books and unopened toys were sold almost immediately – to re-sellers, we suspect – and the kids clothing moved pretty steadily throughout the morning. We were able to get some money for small appliances we never use because our family is no longer small.

Lynnette really got into the whole process. She got advice from co-workers throughout the week and kept updating me with this information. Did you know the gates for vendors open at 5 AM? I do. Did you know that it costs just $15 to purchase a two-stall space to peddle your wares? I do. Did you know that other vendors will walk around before dawn with flashlights looking at what everyone starts laying out before the swap meet even officially opens? I do. Finally, did you know that Lynnette was such an effective saleswoman? I do now.

One of the highlights of the day was watching Lynnette make her first sale. She was so giddy and happy that she struggled to pack the items into a plastic bag. “Why didn’t you put the large ones in first?” I asked. “I don’t…” she started, but didn’t finish. Had this been any kind of medical emergency, however, she would have been barking out commands like an in-his-prime Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage after identifying the opposition’s pass defense. At one point, the rush of people coming to her boutique was so thick that she turned to me, handed me a bunch of stuff, nodded at a man and told me to “ring him up.” My brow furrowed. My eyes narrowed. My head jerked back. I worked retail, OK? You don’t have to tell me what to do. Also, where’s the register, you clown?

The best thing to come out of the day was spending 9 hours together without the kids. Since we got such an early start, I think I started begging Lynnette to leave at 9 AM. It wasn’t miserable, it was just boring. During a lull in visitors, Lynnette and I started a conversation in which we tried to recall the most miserable, anger-filled moments we’ve shared over our 14 years together. We were laughing pretty hard at all those fiascoes. I’ll probably end up writing about the definitive list later this week. We had Agu Ramen for lunch and had more great conversations. The first was trying to remember what occupied the lot (at Pearlridge) Agu Ramen currently does before it was a Cold Stone. Neither of us could remember. We started thinking about other places that no longer existed like Castle Park, Pearl City Tavern, dine-in Pizza Hut restaurants, Penguins (I don’t remember this one), TCBY, the Yum Yum Tree, and others. Lastly, we talked about our own personal hot takes regarding local opinions. I think Zippy’s is one of the most overrated eateries on the island; Lynnette thinks Zippy’s mac salad is junk. It was a pretty fun game.

Anyway, there are two reasons we went to the swap meet today.The first, obviously, was to create a little more space in our rapidly shrinking home. The second, was to raise money for something I hope will dramatically improve Lynnette’s life directly and mine indirectly.

When Lynnette was pregnant with Madison, she lost a lot of her hair. Most of it was from the top of her head, but some of it was off of her eye brows. It never grew back. She has almost no eyebrow hair. If I could magically donate some of mine, I’d do it in a heart beat. The universe knows I have more than enough. But since that trick doesn’t exist, we’re going to do the next best thing. Lynnette’s going to get her eyebrows micro-bladed.

She first mentioned this a couple of years ago. “Just do it,” I said. “Why, you think I’m ugly?” she asked, jumping to conclusions. “No, if you get it, you’ll stop talking about it,” I said. Guys are stupid but also practical. She resisted for all this time until she went down a micro-blading rabbit hole on her phone one night. As I tried to fall asleep, she continued to nudge me. “Ooooohhh, look at these!” she said, over and over, shining her phone’s illuminated screen in my weary eyes. “I don’t…that’s great,” I said, over and over. Well, Lynnette found a place she likes for a price that seems like the going rate. She’s excited to never have to draw in her eyebrows again. I’m excited because that (hypothetically) means her preparation-before-leaving-the-damn-house time should fall dramatically.

4I found this outline of a dazzling eyebrow shape and altered it represent Lynnette’s financial goal. She’s been saving money by avoiding Starbucks and expensive lunches. She made decent money today. “I’m pretty much 3/4 of the way there,” she said gleefully from the couch. Good for you, Lynnette.

Valentine’s Day 2017: Totally Not Bad for a Tuesday and No Planning Whatsoever

Important dates have been able to sneak up on me with alarming frequency ever since the twins were born. I’ve just got too much going on. Valentine’s Day is no exception. I bought Lynnette a new purse last week, but had nothing for the actual date. I realized this at 5 in the afternoon yesterday. It was already too late to do something about it then, so I had to pull out the old Phil tricks of flying by the seat of my pants. I feel like I have gotten better at this method of flying over time, as the surface area on the seat of my pants has increased as well. Coincidence? Who’s to say?

3Lynnette messaged me just as I was about to leave campus. She said she bought lobster tails and that I should get something to pair with it. According to Lynnette, the lobster tails were $7 each. She bought four. She just explained her reasoning: “I wasn’t even there [Foodland] to buy the lobster, but once I saw it, I was like (unintelligible growling noise), then said ‘I will buy four – one for you, one for me, one for Goob, and one for Cole and Avery’.” “But you knew Madison wouldn’t eat it, and that Cole and Avery couldn’t eat a whole one by themselves,” I said. She cocked her head back and shook it vigorously. “I didn’t know that,” she said. “Oh, you didn’t want to assume, right?” I said. “Exactly. It’s Valentine’s Day,” she said. This wasn’t even the best thing she said tonight. “I NEVER get to eat two lobster tails!” she said moments before she inhaled some lobster, which was moments before I took this picture. She’s my lobster, guys.

1Madison got a Harry Potter Book and a box of Merci Chocolates. The book is pretty straightforward: she’s really into Harry Potter right now. She’s in the middle of the third book, has Hermione’s wand, and owns a witch’s cloak. The chocolates, though, have a backstory.

Two Christmases ago (I think), we started seeing ads on tv for Merci Chocolates featuring this really horrible song that went something like “You didn’t have to do what you did, but you did, and I want to thank you,” which basically suggested that Merci Chocolates were the go-to gift if one would like to express the sentiment of thanks. This became an in-joke in our house. Whenever Madison would help us out with something, we’d sing the song – “You didn’t have to clean up your room, but you did and you did, and I want to thank you!” Madison would gamely reply “Yes I did, you made me clean my room. And you’re not going to get me the chocolate.” She was so salty. Her reaction was completely devoid of amusement and thus served as endless amusement for Lynnette and me. Well, today she finally got her Merci Chocolate.

2Lynnette got me two dri-fit polo shirts from Old Navy (my personal sponsor) and I might give them a try, but my first reaction is that they bring me a big step – and therefore much too close – to completely becoming a clone of Al Higa. I don’t know if I can do it.

Still, it was hard to be disappointed in dinner which consisted of steak, lobster, and spicy ahi. It was followed by a dessert of chocolate-covered strawberries and Uber Tarts. I am uncomfortably full right now and the only thing I have on my mind is more chocolate-covered strawberries. Give it a few minutes and I am sure I’ll wander off into the kitchen, find my way into the fridge, and totally ignore Abby staring at me like she is in this picture.

45Neither Cole nor Avery received gifts in the form of toys, but they did get in on the lobster and chocolate-covered strawberries party. It might have been the second best day of their lives (the first, obviously, is when Avery came home from the hospital. Their first time eating ice cream cake is a close third, I think).

Cole and Avery clutched their little scraps of lobster and picked pieces off of it before shoving them into their mouths. I think this made Lynnette both happy and sad – happy that she had one more thing in common, one more thing to share with them, but sad that she will likely have less lobster to eat.

The chocolate-covered strawberries were a no-brainer. They love strawberries and the chocolate put it over the top. To my surprise Cole finished his dessert with only a modest chocolate soul patch while Avery left the table with a full-blown chocolate beard. She was a mess.

Finally, the nightcap. I paired a 2017 Coca-Cola with my meal and made Lynnette 2 midori sours. I posted a picture of Lynnette and me in our Oceans days and it reminded me of the drinks she used to order: midori sours, amaretto sours, liquid cocaines on the rocks, and the cheapest tequila available. She used to be an absolute rock star. It’s fitting. All my favorite bands are basically my old favorite bands and I will never love new music the way I love(d) my old music. It’s just a fact of life. Lynnette is the same. She can play all her greatest hits on a loop forever and I’ll still be here, fanboying out of my mind.

The Re-Return of the Baby Gate

Our old baby gate broke a little over a week ago, and since that time I’ve lived in a bliss of an open stairway completely free of the threat of catching my ass on either side of that harsh, narrow metal gate. That paradise came to an end (no pun intended) today as the replacement gate arrived via Amazon’s speed shipping. This is the first and only time I could have waited a few more days for my order to arrive.

1“Daddy does the shopping and mommy does the installing,” Lynnette said as she worked on the new gate and limitation of my freedoms. She did it in one of her sarcastic tones of voice so I met her with equal sarcasm. “Wow, that sure is quite the inversion of traditional gender roles,” I said. I thought that was pretty good but it garnered no response, so since my wife (possessed of two degrees, I remind you) did not care for my eloquently stated observation, I went a little low brow. “Nice butt crack,” I said. I received this patented Lynnette Death Glare™ in return. It was worth it and I wasn’t lying.

2In sharp contrast to my feelings on the baby gate, the twins behaved like they were welcoming home and old friend. They immediately ran up to the gate, shook it, bit it, and screamed. It should be mentioned that they don’t behave like this when I return home from a long, arduous day at work. That’s right. They love a cold, uncaring metal gate more than they love their father who just fed them two bowls of Jello. I would be upset if I thought they knew at all what they were doing.

They seem so big, but they’re still so young. Just today Avery fake cried while Cole legit cried. It was a kind of sarcastic, whiny cry – like when your friend roasts you and you have no other recourse but to say exactly what they said, but in a higher pitch. And then there’s Cole who paraded around the house naked moments before his bath time clutching onto the remains of his English muffin. Ah, parenthood.

Cole and Avery at 15 Months

Today was chaos. Lynnette’s phone rang at 4 in the morning. Lynnette’s mom contracted whatever stomach bug has been going through our family. She wasn’t going to be able to watch the kids today. Lynnette had a flu clinic scheduled. She tried to call her replacement, but she couldn’t get in touch with her so early in the morning. “I don’t know if I’ll get back in time, but let me try,” I said.

I drove to Damien about 45 minutes earlier than I usually do to print out assignments. I went through the process of contacting all of my bosses. I tidied the place up a bit. I made it back to Mililani with enough time to pick up breakfast from McDonald’s. Lynnette was already dressed and ready for work. Madison was up and dressed. I would watch Cole and Avery until their doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. As Lynnette made her final preparations to leave, her replacement called and said she’d be able to cover Lynnette.

12It’s been a rough week for the twins. I actually forgot that yesterday was the 9th and didn’t realize it was the 10th until we left the house today. It’s just as well. The twins have runny noses and upset stomachs. I hope I’ll be able to snap “official” 15 month pictures of them some time this weekend. For now, this will have to do.

The trip to the doctors for their 15-month check up was fortuitous. We were able to get some advice about the twins’ stomachs. We’ve had to pivot to lactaid-free milk for the time being. We were told they can eat anything – just to observe how they react to the food. Avery, of course, has been operating under this assumption for quite some time already. Cole, though, is beginning to display the signs of growing into a picky eater like her older sister. “When Avery gets older, she and I are going to go on foodie dates,” Lynnette said, as if she thought Madison, Cole, Abby, and me would mind at all that we simply filled our bellies with a cornucopia of fast food options while she and Avery were out on a Yelp Quest/Fest. Because we won’t. Not at all.

34Avery currently weighs 19 pounds and stands at 2 feet, 5 inches tall. Her slightly older brother weighs 21 pounds and is 2 inches taller. “Is this her usual…bloat?” Avery’s doctor asked as he inspected her tummy area. “Yes,” I said. “It’s the only part of her that resembles me – everything else is Lynnette,” I said. Sad but true.

Avery needs to work on her speech. As of this moment, she only really utters one word consistently, and to the surprise of no one, that word is “mum-mum”. She babbles a lot and makes what I call “mouse noises”, but there aren’t to many words mixed in there. We hope she’ll start talking soon. It’s possible. She spent the last two or three months catching her brother up on the whole walking thing, maybe the speech will be the next big step. Cole’s got a bigger hurdle on the horizon, though.

The twins’s doctor suggested we try to get him off the binky. “Cold turkey?” Lynnette asked. “Well, there’s really no other way to do it,” the doctor said. If you recall, Lynnette opted against quitting LuLaRoe cold turkey, so we cannot blame her for being unfamiliar with the method. “Maybe start by hiding it, then only bringing it out at nap and bed times,” the doctor said. I looked at Cole. His finger was jammed into the space behind the nipple of his Binky. I guess he’s going to have to learn to self-soothe.

This is going to sound stupid, but sometimes I still can’t believe I have twin toddlers. Most days pass without incident, but this past week has been ridiculous. We’ve had to change diapers, sheets, and pillows at an alarming rate. I had forgotten how insane toddler sickness can be, and this time there are two of them. Thank God I have a Lynnette.

Remembering Rutherford Jameson

It started innocently enough.

“Mister, what did you do for your 18th birthday?” one of my seniors asked.

“18th birthday…” I repeated. My mind did the necessary time travel: 18 would have been my senior year of high school, couldn’t party yet, senior year, birthday… It hit me and all the memories came flooding back.

“Oh!” I said. I was so excited that I chuckled. “This is going to be a long, stupid story.”

There is only one trophy in my house and it is mine. It does not bear my name or the name of a team. Ir reads:

APRIL 9, 1998

6I took physics during my senior year of high school and participated in the University of Hawaii-sponsored Engineering Expo, which featured various competitions including bridge building, egg drops, and pendulum design. My friends and I were entered in the last of these. The objective was to build a machine – using only the concept of a pendulum – to accurately hit golf balls 10 to 15 feet away. As of the end of school on April 8, 1998 (my 18th birthday) my group had not built our machine. In fact, we hadn’t started building it at all.

April is in the middle of the high school baseball season so my classmate/teammate and I left practice early to work on the machine. I mean, it was for school, so totally legit. But the machine wasn’t the thing that had excited me most that day. I was excited to show my friend Rutherford Jameson, my “pet” chameleon. Rutherford Chameleon was one of those green chameleons that were plentiful on this island before those dark brown ones took over. Rutherford Jameson was large; he was long, but especially fat. He resembled an alligator in this way: tiny arms protruding from a bloated body with head and tail on either end. He wasn’t really my pet. He was my friend. He liked to cruise on the slats of wood which were nailed across the stilts which propped up my house. He especially loved the area near the water hose. Rutherford Jameson was not flighty like other chameleons. He just lay on his slat like a miniature iguana. I’d come home from practice then head into the yard before going inside. Sure enough, he’d be there. It was the consistency that I valued most. It made no sense to me at all that a chameleon should be have this way, and yet he did – every day. “Sup, Rutherford,” I’d say to him and extend my fist. Of course he wasn’t going to bump it, but he didn’t run from it. I considered that tantamount to a fist bump.

So I had been telling my friends about Rutherford and his seemingly eccentric behavior (You’re right. In retrospect I don’t know how I had friends, either.). I was really excited to confirm his existence. When my teammate and I arrived at my house I dashed into the yard. Rutherford Jameson was not on his usual slats. I was surprised. I can’t remember if I called his name, but I am pretty sure I rhetorically asked where he was. He was going to make a liar out of me. A few minutes later I found him. He was crushed between coils of the wound water hose. I ran into the house to confront my father. What transpired next was the stupidest conversation he and I have ever had.

“Dad! You killed Rutherford Jameson!” I shouted.

“What?” my dad said.

“Rutherford Jameson! My pet chameleon!” I said.

“A chameleon?” he said.

“You crushed him in the water hose!” I said.

“Oh, the fat one?” my dad said.

“Yes!” I said.

“Oh. I tried to shoo him away, but he didn’t really like to move, yeah?” my dad said.

“That’s what I loved about him!” I said.

“Sorry!” he said.

“Ahh!” I said.

I was obviously exaggerating my emotions, but it’s amazing that my dad didn’t just punch me in the mouth at any point during that exchange. I always assumed he was playing along too, because he’s not the kind of man to care about his oldest and handsomest son’s emotional attachment to a chameleon. But I’ll never forget the tone of his voice when he said that part about trying to shoo Rutherford away. There was a kind of sincere emotion – something like a recognition of what had happened. Perhaps he didn’t believe my histrionics, but he knew I wasn’t lying about the existence of that plump reptilian source of joy.

And so it was under this cloud that my friends (some arrived later in the evening) built the pendulum. My dad was actually the one who suggested the basic concept, then somehow – and really, it’s still one of the most incredible-yet-halfassed things I’ve ever pulled off – we built this thing pretty well. We stood two 6-inch pieces of 2×4 as pillars mounted to a base connected only at the back end so the golf ball would fit between the pillars.We drilled holes for an axle and passed the axle through an empty spool of fishing line. We stabbed a screwdriver through the outside of the spool and fixed it in place. The handle of the screwdriver would strike the golf balls. At 11:30 at night we couldn’t believe how well it worked.

We brought the pendulum to UH the following day. I had written “In loving memory of Rutherford Jameson” on one of the two pillars. We finished in 4th place out of 30-something entries. The team from Saint Louis through staples onto the carpet (the competition surface) after their turn. It knocked one of our balls out off target. We reported it to the UH students running the event. They didn’t do anything.

I took the trophy home because I wanted to share it with my dad. No one objected. Somehow, it has survived two residence moves and 19 years.

“So yeah. That’s how I spent my 18th birthday,” I said.

My students were laughing as I had focused more on the Rutherford Jameson aspects of the story.

“Wooooow, Mister,” the student who started all of this said.

“I know, I’m an idiot,” I said. I turned away briefly. My eyes were a little wet.I hadn’t thought about those two days in years. It’s so easy to forget stuff when you’re caught up in everyday challenges. I’m so grateful that my student prompted the recollection of these ridiculous memories.

You were a good chameleon, Rutherford Jameson.

Stomach Pains

By 8 PM last night I had washed the dishes and looked to be headed to an early bedtime. At 8:15 Cole vomited all over the couch. Lynnette re-bathed him while I took the sheets and waterproof pads off the couch and started a load of laundry. 8:30. Still looking pretty good for 8 hours of sleep. Nope.

12Right around 8:45 Madison shouted that Cole had thrown up again – this time in my bed. He had managed to tag three pillows, rendering them unusable going forward. I packed them into a trash bag and tossed them into our trash bin, which, incidentally, hasn’t been emptied since before Super Bowl Sunday. I had neither the time nor emotional investment (none of the pillows was mine) to play Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye to You”, but I did have the time to head on down to Walmart to buy three brand new pillows.

As I walked through the parking lot and into the store I couldn’t help but marvel at the turn of events. I was 5 minutes away from taking a shower and going to bed, instead, I was standing in a home and bath aisle pressing various pillows covered in plastic against my head to test for firmness. None of it helped. I’m an idiot. I bought two of the cheapest and then splurged on Lynnette’s pillow because she deserves it. She also deserved a salted caramel milkshake from Five Guys, so I got her one of those, too. I got back home, put the second load of laundry in the washing machine, then changed out the sheets before showering and going to bed.

3This is Cole at about 9:30. We thought the worst was over, but we were wrong. He got up at 1 in the morning and threw up again. Lynnette took him to the bathroom and once again I took care of the soiled linens before quickly falling back to sleep. Then, about an hour later, he got up and started screaming. He didn’t stop until something like 3:30. Lynnette tried to soothe him with movies, Pedialyte, and cuddles. I fell asleep at 4, but I don’t know when Cole stopped crying. And now Lynnette’s stomach is upset, making her the third (at least – and I say at least because my stomach is so shitty that I honestly can’t tell the difference between my usual fecal habits and my fecal habits when infected by some kind of stomach flu) person in our house to suffer this indignity.

Speaking of which, the best story coming out of last week has yet to be told so I am going to do so now. Madison was the first to get hit with whatever this thing is. She caught it last week and missed a couple of days of school. It also caused her to unleash farts so deadly that they rival my own. On Friday, Lynnette joined Madison for breakfast at school. They were joined mid-meal by one of Madison’s friends. “Are you in the same class?” Lynnette asked Mad’s friend. “Yes,” she said. Lynnette learned that she and Madison sit on the same table. A few moments later, out of nowhere and without any provocation, Madison’s classmate revealed that she had the stomach flu and missed school on Monday and Tuesday because of it. Lynnette was near tears telling me this story. I didn’t understand because it wasn’t particularly funny. “You should have seen it, Phil,” she said. “What?” I asked. “You should have seen Madison’s face!” she answered. Apparently, Madison realized that her classmate was the source of her illness. She turned to face Lynnette, tilted her head to the right, drew a tight line with her lips, and bugged her eyes out of her face. Lynnette couldn’t stop laughing. “She was so upset!” Lynnette said through her laughter.”Oh, should we write her a card to thank her for your farts?” I asked Madison. Then she tilted her head and made the face Lynnette described at me! I cried real tears.